“My dear uncle! I was looking for you! Come home, mum’s waiting with dinner!”, cried ten-year-old Marianna, forcing her way through the line of German soldiers, and reaching Leon Weinstein, who was standing among the men rounded up for transport. Leon picked her up and marched out into the corwd
Years later, Marianna Gajowniczek recalled,“Back at home he kissed me and cried. He said that … he would never forget, especially Marianna, ‘She saved my life at the last moment’.”
From August 1943, the Imiołek family [Marianna's parents] hid two Jews - Leon and his sister-in-law Bronisława Szafran. [Earlier, Leon had been helped by Stefan and Helena Burchacki.
They prepared two hiding places in a wardrobe and under the coal store, in their Saska Kępa (Warsaw district) basement apartment. Czesława Imiołek, Marianna’s mother, provided for the family and for the Jews in hiding by doing laundry and cleaning houses. Antoni Imiołek suffered from tuberculosis and only worked occasionally. Marianna helped her mother.
“I remember one search at night. … Mother woke me and opened the door to the staircase. Leon had already got away. Father hid him in the cellar hideout, and then he and Bronisława and others escaped to the garden through the back door. … I remember I went first, mum would always have me walk in front, Mum behind me. And behind her the Gestapo, the Nazis ... When I got into the cellar, I stood in front of the hideout.”
Once, Marianna’s schoolmate looked through the window and noticed a male figure. “Uncle” Leon quickly hid in the wardrobe. Marianna invited the girl in and showed her that there was no one inside.
“I had been taught that it didn’t matter who, but if someone is in a spot, you must lend a helping hand.”
Leon and Bronisława left their hiding place when the Red Army entered in 1944.